Ronald Reagan’s televised address to the nation after the Challenger disaster in 1986 touched the nation as few other presidential addresses have.
Reagan’s speech text was a masterpiece of brevity and eloquence, but it was the presentation which touched the nation. Simplicity was the order of the day. No crowds or stadiums were needed.
As always, Reagan brought his optimistic outlook and his abiding belief in the greatness of the nation’s spirit:
And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.
President Reagan spoke directly to each and every one of us, in a way no one else could:
We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”